Husbandry 101: For Committed Men

Dear Neil: I have saved a column you wrote over a decade ago called “Husbandry 101: For Committed Men.” My copy has yellowed and frayed over the years, so could you rerun that column again? I believe many would like to see it again.

Boulder, Colorado

Dear Boulder: You bet. Here is a list of “rules” that every committed man would be wise to follow in his intimate relationship:

  • Never forget what’s really important. Despite all the challenges that we face with our careers, paying the bills and surviving, it is our relationship issues that cause us the most challenge, pain, excitement, satisfaction, joy and heartbreak. Our relationships, in the end, are the only things that really matter–the relationships we have with our spouses, lovers, parents, children, siblings, in-laws, friends–and the relationship we have with ourselves.
  • You must give to your marriage more than you expect to receive from it. Learn this–and form the habits of giving, pleasing, serving, nurturing, being affectionate, romancing. If you take more than you give, the reservoir of trust, good will, generosity and love will dry up.
  • Women want to feel cherished. That’s more important than virtually anything else you can offer. Ask for what you want in concrete, specific terms and give up whining, manipulating, punishing, withholding or withdrawing in order to get your way.
  • Take responsibility for making your relationship right. It’s up to each of us to take the actions required to make our relationship happy, vital, passionate and close. So search for the solutions to the dilemmas and conflicts in your relationship. When you look for solutions, you’ll usually be able to find them. Accept the leadership role in keeping the relationship close and clearing up anything in the way of the two of you being close.
  • Learn the art of how to apologize genuinely. Admit when you are wrong, do whatever is necessary to make it right, and then don’t do it again.
  • Ask these questions: How am I doing as your partner/mate/husband? What are the ways I could improve? Are your needs getting met in our relationship? If not, what would you like me to do differently?
  • If you want a happy, long-term intimate relationship, learn good problem-solving, negotiating, conflict resolution, anger management and compromising skills–and apply them.
  • A happy woman will influence your happiness more than you’ll ever know. An unhappy woman will create an unhappy environment, and it will eventually sour you and everyone else around you. If you wish to have a happy home, do everything you can to keep your woman happy.
  • The key to creating the best relationship you possibly can is to learn how to take your wall down and open your heart.
  • Always be a lover in training. Always be a “student” husband–constantly willing to learn or take feedback about how you could be better.
  • Learn how to be a true friend to your partner. Ask yourself: if I were saying this to my best friend, how would I show I care? What would I say? How well would I listen? How would I help?
  • Loving her isn’t enough. You must also be skilled, tactful, balanced, kind, generous, compassionate, emotionally and physically present.
  • Adopt this motto: The only purpose of this relationship is for me to learn how to become a more loving person.
  • Thank the woman in your life for all she has contributed to you. Do this right now.

“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.”–Bertrand Russell

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